Palestine solidarity encampments at UvA: experiences and reflections

Although the first encampment was initiated by staff and student organizers, it was attended by many Palestinian and leftist organizations of varying sizes, along with non-affiliated individuals. While the organizers strove to accommodate this diversity, their position meant that they were more likely to use certain tactics. As an anthropologist, similar to other participants who had been socialized in higher education institutions, I sympathized with the tactics which initially composed the organizers’ toolkit, namely, those which relied on using the cultural capital and respectability derived from higher-education. This meant that the negotiation process and media representation were primary concerns. Yet, what the camps learned by themselves was that power arose from the material and social world at least as much as from the cultural field: if the camps hadn’t built the barricades, the protestors would be simply picked up one-by-one by the police, as it happened in other occupations. As the participants recognized, physical obstruction was their central leverage. Confrontation with police violence meant increasing alienation from status-quo representation and legality, while also bringing forth practical questions of logistics, space, and communication – questions which have to be answered in order to constitute a social force independent from the center of power. The immovable barricades were thus testaments to bodies, thoughts and emotions on the move, negotiating between cultural capital and social efficacy, while in the process making participants into actors. In the afternoon, a general assembly was held upon requests of participants to exercise collective decision making, deliberating on immediate practical issues and the next steps we should take as the camp. Sadly, such developments were cut short by the dedication of the CvB to evict the camp earlier rather than to let it build towards something unmanageable. After the breach of the barricades around 17:00, the riot police wreaked havoc in the camp, beating up quite a few protestors but arresting only around 40 people. Rounded up for more than an hour by the police, we were unexpectedly told that we would be let free towards Rokin. At the moment I was really perplexed as to why this happened, but then I found out that perhaps thousands of protestors were supporting us in different locations, some close to the Dam, some at Rokin, and some next to our encampment. In an extreme gesture of solidarity, they had managed, while receiving baton blows, to block and immobilize the city busses which were going to be taking us prospective arrestees.

Bariş Eser in Palestine solidarity encampments at UvA: experiences and reflections (